Martin Hannan: Unlikely source for cold comfort

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With the first really cold weather of the winter having hit us in the last few days, I’m afraid it is just a matter of time before we hear of people in Edinburgh and the Lothians suffering from hypothermia due to fuel poverty.

It really is a massive issue for many people on low incomes, especially those who have recently lost money due to the bedroom tax and the wholesale removal of benefits by this cruel and heartless coalition 

There is hope, however, inspired from an unexpected source, namely someone inside that very same coalition government.

Up until last week, I’m afraid that Energy Minister Ed Davey, pictured below, had not shown up on my radar very much.

Then Ed went into the lions’ den and played a blinder. At the London Conference of the energy industry’s trade association, Energy UK, Davey took the Big Six cartel of energy companies to task.

He raised the spectre of gas and electricity suppliers getting the same reputation as bankers after the 2008 crash. Making a reference to former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin, he said: “Fair or not, [customers] look at the big suppliers and they see a reflection of the greed that consumed the banks. So it’s a ‘Fred the shred’ moment for the industry.”

Davey admits that the energy companies have to make profits so they can invest in infrastructure. So do I. ScottishPower, for instance, is spending millions on experimental renewables and if they are successful, Scotland really will be the “green” champion of the world.

But Davey’s next statement was spot on: “Those profits cannot come at the expense of the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poorest in our society. Customers are not just cash cows to be squeezed in the pursuit of a higher return for shareholders.”

I am surprised that Davey was not immediately taken back to the Cabinet Office and given a sound thrashing by the public school oiks now running the UK, and I suspect we shall not be hearing very much about Mr Davey for much longer as he will be quietly dropped.

Yet how right he was. While the Tories bleat on about switching suppliers to save money – a waste of time in most cases – it was left to a Liberal Democrat to point out the bleeding obvious, namely that the capitalists who make fortunes out of our need for energy can no longer expect to do so with impunity.

I don’t believe shareholders want to be tarred as Freds. They are not merely money-making robots. They do have consciences, and at this time of a fuel poverty crisis they must be prepared to accept lesser returns on their investments in order that their fellow citizens can survive.

Yes, I know that is me seeing the world through rose-tinted specs, but I am an optimist and I fervently want to see better energy deals for poorer people.

Ed Miliband’s 20- month price freeze is arrant nonsense – what if the wholesale oil and gas price falls, does the freeze still stick? But help for the elderly, disabled and the poor is doable. Government and companies alike must work together and do much more to help the poor this winter.

We all feel the cold, so our common humanity demands it.

Valuable lessons at Loch Lomond

So Edinburgh City Council has decided to spend £1250 per person on sending headteachers for a four-day retreat on the banks of Loch Lomond. Personally, I think that

the experiment is worth it.

Hailing from near to the place which I consider to be the most beautiful on Earth, I wish everyone could spend some days on Loch Lomondside and breath in its peace and tranquility.

The headteachers are supposed to be learning about leadership, and unlike bygone days, it is not something that they learn on the job.

Hopefully, time by the loch will inspire them. And how we need inspiration in Edinburgh.

Labour pains as stalwarts back Yes campaign

Two big hitters of the west coast Labour Party have caused a stir by announcing that they are going to vote Yes in the independence referendum.

Former Lord Provost of Glasgow Alex Mosson, pictured, joined Sir Charles Gray, former leader of Strathclyde Regional Council, in declaring that they would vote Yes.

Neither man could be said to be a friend of my party, the SNP, so it made me laugh when their choice to vote Yes was dismissed as them going cranky and turning all nationalist.

The truth is that both men, and an increasing number of Labour voters, see that the only hope for their causes is an independent Scotland. Might be interesting to hear from our local Labour stalwarts . . .

Dario drives off into the sunset

Sad to hear that racing driver Dario Franchitti from West Lothian is retiring at the age of 40 following a disastrous accident.

Three times winner of the Indianapolis 500 and four times the IndyCar series champion – the nearest thing the US has to Formula One – the former Stewart’s Melville pupil has done Scotland proud. He deserves a knighthood.

Joe’s ship comes in

Professor Joe Goldblatt of Queen Margaret University says HMS Edinburgh could work as a tourist attraction alongside Britannia at Leith. If the prof says it, that’s good enough for me.